Team Murder No Brain No Headache.

2Sep/04Off

Because Dead Tree Is Pig Latin For Credibility

I've been sort of holding back on commenting on the Wikipedia controversy that erupted at the beginning of the week. Part of that, beyond the time constraints that a new semester starting necessitates, is simply waiting around for people to write better summaries than I'm capable of and knowing that the collective opinion on this is going to be much more interesting reading than whatever twenty word episode of weblog clock punching happens to fall out of my ass that day.

What interests me about Wikipedia more than anything is how good it's become on what amounts to an informal (as compared to academic journals) peer review. I've had a little experience in an environment like that albeit a more chaotic one and people will harass the bejeesus out of you about inaccuracies even in the most wacky and subjective entries. Since the goal of Wikipedia is so much more focused I can only imagine how intensely active participants must scrutinize what is added as well as what is already written. One aspect of the 'pedia that already kicks ass is the inability for dead tree versions with incorrect information to sit around in a library and create an escalating snowball of bad information. There are cases like Alex Halavais' intentional introduction of false information that might temporarily poison entries but the availability of review and correction by anyone is a pretty convincing argument for the pretty good-ness of the information available. It just seems to me such an obviously superior methodology (even if you did it in a more strictly refereed way) for creating an encyclopedia that creating baseless doubt about it based entirely on methods seems amazingly short sighted. It also makes me think of the value of dead tree editions of things like newspapers where inaccuracies can be preserved forever in library archives. It gives some valuable and indelible cultural context about how and what people are thinking about during a period of time but given the hype-half check the facts-and get it out there methods of journalism I'm more skeptical of that model than Wikipedia.

I'm curious to see how this story or lack of a story will play out once the big names in journalism latch onto it and if Al Fasoldt is going to suffer some consequences from appearing suddenly on the weblogging radar. I'm guessing yes.

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  1. I’ll go with lack of a story. I think the big names in journalism are so enamored of themselves that they’ll neglect this story. For now, anyway. They really do see themselves as infallible. Also, I don’t think old media has yet to give proper credence to what is written on the Internet. Until something becomes a threat, the mainstream turns its collective back. And, even then, they have a tendency to make light of it.

    I like the Wikipedia and have found it very useful for many things. But, just as an example, I’m no expert on Lincoln, even though I should be (or could be), but as I read what has been written about him on Wikipedia, I get a definite sense the author or authors really struggled to present an article that would be acceptable. Or maybe I’m just overly sensitive.

    Also, what you said about newspapers sitting in archives for decades, I think someone could draw a parallel of what has been written in school textbooks. I’m talking history, specifically. I gotta tell ya, from the time I was in grade school to the time my kids were, a lot of things changed. Or, at least were added to those books.


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